Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Week 4 and 5 - Passover, Orphanage, and Pokhara

Day 23.
Today is Passover eve, I woke up, went to give my clothes to the washing place, and then went to the garden of dreams, this time, with my kindle. I spent a few hours there, just sitting in the shade, reading. There’s a very good, and extremely expansive (in Nepali standards) restaurant there. I ordered a milkshake and a pork chop. It was heavenly. The combination of the serene environment, and the superb food, was absolutely worth the rather high bill ($20, which is the most I ever paid for food in Nepal)

The Seder was great. It’s my second time on Seder while abroad, and last time, in Koh Samui, it was horrible - the food was bad and there was zero organisation. Here in Kathmandu, they know how to do a massive Seder and do it well. The stated time was way too early, I came on time, 17:30, but the event started at 19:30. I did have some time to mingle, so it wasn’t bad.
Usually, Passover Seder is an excruciatingly long event, you take the time and read everything, explain stuff, etc. But here, they know nobody came for that, so they did the Hagaddah very quickly, and kept people alert by stopping for a raffle, with prizes ranging from bungee jumping and rafting trips to small amounts of money to spend at trekking equipment shops. I won a one day rafting trip, which was such a fun feeling - it’s the first time I ever won a raffle.
The food was okay, not the best, not the worst. I was extremely surprised that they served some stuff which Chabad usually doesn’t allow.
Anyway, after getting thoroughly stuffed, I went back to my hotel room and off to sleep.

Day 24.
Woke up by continuous banging sounds. It turns out that the building next to the hotel is being demolished. By two men with hammers. The building they’re taking down is connected to the one I’m sleeping in, so Saturday, 7:30AM, I woke up. Didn’t feel like doing anything today, so I just watched netflix and did nothing the whole day. Went out three times for meals, and that’s about it…
One thing which made me happy - I went to fetch croissants from the Pumpernickel bakery, and the fact that it’s passover didn’t even come up in my thought until after I finished eating. Until this passover, I felt either a tiny bit guilty, or slightly amused, about the fact that I don’t keep kosher. This time - zero fucks were given :)

Day 25.
Working hard again. I love the fact that I can just sit at OR2K (a very nice vegetarian restaurant) for the whole time I’m working, and enjoy a decent wifi connection, along with superb food. I keep surprising myself with how much work I’m getting done here.

Day 26.
Today I’m going to volunteer at an orphanage. Arranged my stuff, got some food, and took a taxi. The orphanage is located 25 minutes away from central Kathmandu, and it’s like it’s a different planet altogether. Quiet, tranquil, and the air is almost breathable.
I arrived before the kids came back from school, got a chance to talk to Laxman, the manager, and arrived at the simple conclusion that this man is an awesome guy.

And then the kids arrived. It took us a while to get to know each other, but that “while” was really quick, like an hour. Than I was swamped by children climbing on top of me, and playing, craving attention. The beautiful thing about this is that they share attention. They’re 12 kids, and it’s almost impossible to get attention if you got to fight for it, so they had a sort of a system, they would cycle between themselves, and play with me in turns. Mostly just sitting in my lap and talking with me.
I didn’t do much with them, just played. Then, after dinner, we watched the most confusing movie I’ve ever seen. It was an Indian action movie, and so much oddity was going on. The action scenes were insane, just so exaggerated it was surreal, then out of the blue, the star was running on foot in a horse race, and winning (wtf), then a woman hit on him, then he was dancing and singing, half in Hindi, half in English. I was never more confused in my life…

Day 27.
Got a new volunteer from the ad I put in the Chabad house. Reut is a nice 23 year old Israeli girl, on her after-military trip. It’s good to have somebody here with me, as the time the kids are at school is kind of a dead time, with not much to do, so company is pretty good. The kids are awesome as ever, currently still just being friendly with them, playing cards, etc. I did help a couple of kids with their English studies. 

Day 28.
Woke up early (we go to sleep quite early as well), and played with the kids in the morning, one boy seems to like me more than the rest, and keeps coming to me for games, or just snuggling in my lap. I passed most of the morning by just having him sit on my lap, and reading an English book. After the kids went to school me and Reut went on a short walk to the edge of town. We went up the mountain, where they grow lots of different produce (mostly wheat), by using terraces. It’s very beautiful, the wheat is ready for reaping, and that creates a beautiful contrast in colors - the dark brown soil, the yellow wheat and the green trees around the terraces. It was a short walk, took us an hour to reach the point where we gave up on climbing :)

Day 29.
Now we seem to know the kids much better, I know most of their names by now, and they are pretty fun to be with. We settled into their routine, waking up at 6:30, playing with them and helping some read, eating breakfast, and seeing their odd transformation when they wear their cute school uniforms (dress pants, striped shirt and a tie), and then we’ll do whatever. Today I asked Laxman to take me to get some chicken and vegetables, so I can make the kids a thai style stir-fry. The dish was quite a success, it was an interesting dish, Thai style of cooking, but with Nepali spices, so it wasn’t exactly thai, but it was close enough, and it was very good. I did make it a bit too spicy, so some of the kids didn’t like it, it’s a bit of a shame, next time I’ll put much less chilly :)

Day 30.
Didn’t do much today, the kids were up extra early, which meant, in turn, that we were up extra early, and tired. The kids went to school, and we went to see what’s in the other side of town. We found some fun street food, and bought a ball, and went back to the orphanage. When the kids came back, we drew some pictures with them, and Reut got a bit claustrophobic, so we went for a walk, to get some fresh air. On the way back we found the kids, and played with them, in a field. Overall, not a very productive day. One of the kids who, in the first couple of days took a liking to me, is ignoring me for some reason. I don’t understand why. I believe he’s mad about something, but I have no idea what about. That kind of makes me sad, but hey, there are 10 more kids…

Day 31.
This morning we decided to make an Israeli (more correctly, druze) dish - pita with labane and za’atar. Reut got za’atar when she came from Kathmandu, we bought wheat flour and yoghurt in town, and tried to make labane. Apparently, the yoghurt here is different from the one in Israel, and although we did make a good cheese, it was not labane in any way. The kids made the pitas from scratch, which they enjoyed a lot, but the end result wasn’t very good. Nobody ended up hungry or anything, but it wasn’t what we wanted to do.

After that, we went to what the kids call “the jungle” - which is a bunch of bamboo trees on a very steep and powdery hill. A nightmare to walk in, and the kids, being the little monkeys they are (i.e. jumpy little cute bundles of joy) just jumped from one hill to another with the help of young bamboo trees (which can be used as sort of “ropes”). I gave up, and one of them came back for me, and led me through an easier route to the “river side” - the river being a very small, horribly smelly body of water. They stopped at a pool which is deep enough to swim in, and some of the kids went in… Kind of gross, but I got them all in the showers afterwards, so meh, as long as they enjoyed it :)
When I came back, I wanted to play some games from the “Hello Ruby” book, to teach the kids some of the basic ideas of coding. The kids decided to go play somewhere instead, so I got to the task of laundry, which meant I was bitching about the task of laundry. The lady who runs the home heard me talking about laundry, and told me that once the electricity comes back, I can simply use the washing machine.

Laziness - it gets shit done!

The washing machine was a very odd little thing. Apparently, the idea of putting clothes into a machine, and have it do all the different cycles automatically isn’t a thing here. This machine is manual. You fill it up with water using the taps, and let it do one cycle, then you get all the water out, then fill up again, and repeat. Literally “rinse and repeat”. Well, it was an interesting experience. I mean, in my house, I put the clothes in the machine, press a button, and after a few hours the clothes are dry, albeit a little wrinkled.

Day 31.
Reut left today. It was a bit sad, because I was left alone, and the time when the kids are at school is very boring when I’m the only one there.

Day 32 and 33.
Basically routine. Wake up, play with kids, send them off to school, do nothing until they come back, and then help them with homework, and play.
Before sleep, I put on some music and we had an impromptu dance party, which was very fun.

Day 34.
Woke up and told the kids that I’ll be leaving today. Some of them were really sad… I promised them I’d return after Pokhara, and that’s the plan. Went with the kids to school, and then went to town, got some really good momos and samosa for insanely cheap prices (1 serving of fried buffalo momos - 80 rupi, a bag of different local snacks - 40 rupi), and some lolipops for the kids. When they came back from school and we played a little, and then came the time to say goodbye. We hugged, and after promising I’ll come back, Hari released me, and I went back to Kathmandu, by local bus, which meant that a 7KM ride took an hour.
Oh, and we took a "goodbye selfie"

In Thamel I met friends, and we went out for drinks and Steaks, which was awesome.

Day 35.
Work day - nothing much to report about it.

Day 36.
Went rafting (for free! thanks to the Chabad house raffle). The drive to the rafting place was relatively comfortable. When we got to our rafting company, they put us at a table (10am), and told us to wait for food, and that at 11am we’ll be on our way.
There’s a thing called “Nepal time” - we got our food at 11am, then only at 12am we started the trip…

The rafting trip itself was good time, 4 hours of rafting, a little physical work, but mostly relaxing and enjoying the views between short and sweet rapid water parts.
The way back was on a local bus, and the ride was extremely uncomfortable - the bus’ back springs feel like they’re made out of granite. The ride was excruciating, and to top it all off, we got stuck in a massive 1.5 hour traffic jam entering Kathmandu.

The bus put us about 1.5 km from Thamel, and we walked there, stopping in a small local restaurant which served really good momos. For less than half the price I would have paid for the same dish in Thamel. Continuing on our way I found a sweets bakery, and got a whole bunch of amazing local cookies. It was a very good day :)

day 37.
Going to Pokhara today. Took the tourist bus from Kathmandu ($6), the bus itself was okay, only thing which got tiring was the fact that we were stopping every hour for about half an hour, so the 5 hour drive there took about 7 hours. I tried to just relax and take photos of scenery, and I got some really good photos, but the bus ride was VERY tiring.
Pokhara is a beautiful city. I found a good hotel in my budget, and went to see the lake. Sat down for a beer on the lake, and watched a beautiful sunset, and the air cleared up enough for the himalayas to peak over the horizon, giving a spectacular view.
After that, I decided to go get a tattoo, so I did. My first tattoo - behold!

Day 38.
Today I went mountain biking around the Fewa lake. It was very beautiful, and quite hard. I went for the trail which goes around the lake. It starts by going east out of Pokhara though some very pretty villages on the water (there are some good looking guesthouses there, if I wasn’t travelling alone, I’d definitely want to spend a few days there), than the trail goes around the lake, up the mountain. The climb was hard, most of it I did on foot, because it was very steep.

After five hours of hard work, I’ve reached the World Peace stupa, a beautiful buddhist stupa dedicated to speading the message of world peace and shanti shanti.
The ride down from the stupa was easy, and I stopped by Devi’s falls, which is kind of overrated, really.
I then found a very good local place for simple, cheap local food, which made me happy :)

Day 39.
Went paragliding, which is amazing. The visibility wasn’t ideal, so we couldn’t see the mountains, but the experience is absolutely exhilarating. We drove up a mountain, then reached their “runway” which is a cleared land which ends in a cliff. Taking off is done by running off the cliff. It was amazing! We took off, then climbed for about 10 minutes, and then just want on a downward glide over the city and the lake.

At the paragliding club I met a nice solo traveller from Chile, and we went together to the international mountain museum, which was interesting - they show different cultures who live in high mountains, mainly Nepali, but some european people as well. Than there are exhibitions showing the different Himalaya mountains, with details about how they were formed, and lastly, an exhibition about global warming and how many climbing missions were destroying the mountain before strict rules about trash disposal were enforced.
We met up for drinks later, at the Busy Bee caffe, which is a great place to get drinks and enjoy some good music (albeit a little expansive)

Day 40.

Doing absolutely nothing. I wanted to go to a Tibetan camp today, but the guy was booked, so I’ll do that in two days. Meanwhile, it’s too hot to be outside, so I just bought some food and I’m chilling in the hotel room, editing videos, and generally enjoying the wonderful act of doing nothing :)

Day 41.

Work day - nothing much to report

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